The great Australian love affair with outdoor entertaining shows no sign of waning. If anything, it’s growing stronger – and more passionate – with each passing year.
“Australia has an ideal climate for a wide range of outdoor entertaining activities,” says Dean Herald of Rolling Stone Landscapes. “And, in most cases, I think we would all prefer to entertain outdoors.”
The architectural features of the house, the functions it needs to perform and its position within the garden, will inform the style of an outdoor entertaining area. Of late, however, most of Dean’s clients have been asking for well-defined, more classical outdoor structures, he says. And they’ve been asking for a much greater number of features than ever before – everything from spacious dining areas and outdoor kitchen facilities to fireplaces for those chilly winter evenings.
“Just add a water feature and a well-thought-out planting theme and you can see why most Australians would prefer to entertain outdoors,” says Dean.
“I think that Australians have always loved to entertain outside but, recently, we have become more cosmopolitan in our approach,” says John Woollard of Exquisite Gardens Australia. “In recent times the outdoor entertaining area has become a genuine extension of the home. The range of designs for outdoor entertaining areas, and the huge selection of materials and products that are now available, means you can design any style of outdoor entertaining a client desires. The possibilities really are endless.
“The variety in design for exterior kitchens is fast approaching the variety in interior kitchens. These kitchens often have ovens, barbecues, fridges, dishwashers, sinks, storage drawers, benches and any other modern convenience an indoor kitchen may have,” explains John.
Regarded as an additional “room”, the outdoor kitchen may be attached to the house or may be in a poolside pavilion or cabana. And the same care is taken in the selection of state-of-the-art equipment and quality finishes as you would in an indoor kitchen.
An outdoor kitchen constructed next to a family or dining room will double, if not treble, the useable space, making large-scale entertaining a more than manageable – and enjoyable – proposition. It will also give a significant boost to the re-sale value of your home.
The outdoor kitchen can incorporate the same fittings and finishes as an indoor kitchen, or you can opt for purpose-built products. There are at least two American companies – the U-Line Corporation and the Viking Corporation – currently selling a range of elegant integrated and under-counter stainless-steel appliances for outdoor use.
So how important is it to call on the services of a landscape designer? “Designers have a great deal of knowledge about materials and how to use a space. To get the most from an outdoor entertaining area, and to keep to budget, you need a designer to tie all the elements together,” says John Woollard.
Dean Herald agrees wholeheartedly, adding: “The most important thing to do when first meeting a new client is to listen to their needs. By doing this, and by asking lots of questions, we are able to start gaining an understanding of our client’s lifestyle and entertaining requirements.
“By simply knowing, for example, the number of family and friends they would have at an average barbecue you can start to build a picture of how large the entertaining area will need to be and get a sense of the materials you will need and what features will need to be included.
“As with any design project, the characteristics of the site will always play a significant role in determining the final outcome. It is the designer’s role, however, to transform any negative characteristics into positive features and to deal with site problems by coming up with a creative design.”
According to John, for an outdoor entertaining area to be considered functional, it needs to support the needs of those using it. “Whether this means that all the area requires is a humble barbie or a fullyfunctional outdoor kitchen, it doesn’t really matter, as long as it is practical,” he said.